T minus 100

It’s 100 days until my birthday! (And how cool that the hundredth day before my birthday is Bastille Day! Well, it’s a little cool. Oh, OK, it’s a meaningless coincidence.)

To goose my weight-loss regime, which appears to have stalled once again — though I am holding my own against the “Google 15” — I am adding a daily exercise regimen for the first time, inspired by hundredpushups.com: each day I will do one more push-up than the day before, starting with one today and culminating with a hundred push-ups by my birthday.

If I keep exactly to that plan, the total number of push-ups I’ll do is 5,050 — one today, two tomorrow, three on Wednesday, four on Thursday, and so on. The sum of the first N numbers from 1 through N is, in general,

(N+1) × N/2

an elegant intuitive proof of which is as follows. List the first N numbers, let’s say 6 for this example:

1 2 3 4 5 6

The sum of the two “outer” numbers is 7:

1 2 3 4 5 6

Removing those, the sum of the next two “outer” numbers is also 7:

2 3 4 5

Removing those, the sum of the final pair is also 7:

3 4

That sum — N+1 — is repeated N/2 times, giving rise to the formula

(N+1) × N/2

“Wait a minute,” I hear you say. “What about when N is odd? Then there’s one extra innermost number with no partner.” That’s true. In that case, the number of pairs that add up to N+1 isn’t N/2, it’s only (N-1)/2:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Here N is 7, and there are 3 pairs that add up to 8 — 1 and 7, 2 and 6, 3 and 5 — and 4 is all alone in middle. So the sum is:

(N+1) × (N-1)/2 + the middle number

But the middle number is always (N+1)/2, so this becomes:

(N+1) × (N-1)/2 + (N+1)/2

which is the same as

(N+1)/2 × (N-1) + (N+1)/2

which can be read as adding one more (N+1)/2 to a collection of N-1 of them, for a total of N (N+1)/2’s:

(N+1)/2 × N

which is the same as

(N+1) × N/2

which is the same as the original formula above whether N is odd or even. QED.

OK, let’s get this regimen started. Rrrrrnnnnngghh — one. Whew.

Starting again again again

I’m still not managing to melt the pounds away, so I’m resetting the start date of my weight-loss effort to today, but keeping the end date the same (July 1st). That gives me 212 days to lose 29 pounds; less than a pound a week. That should be doable, right?

I plan to reduce my portion sizes, pay closer attention to the nutrition-per-calorie content of what I eat, get on my bike more often, and use Kinetic as my simulated personal trainer.

Or maybe I’ll just hibernate for the winter and metabolize my fat reserves.

Weight insurgency in its last throes

One month ago I wrote:

I can confidently report for those considering a failed attempt to lose weight that there is nothing better for that than combining the aftermath of your mom’s death with caring for two small children and one extremely elderly dog, plus a long daily commute and a consulting gig on the side.

To that list I can now add “breaking a rib” and “putting said elderly dog to sleep.”

(Did I really say 2007 was going to be a good year? Maybe only in the sense of, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Or maybe the continued amazingness of our kids is bleeding the karma out of everything around them, which I’m willing to endure indefinitely.)

So I am again moving the goalpost: the target of 150 pounds is now scheduled for the first of July, 2008.

June: busting out all over

I can confidently report for those considering a failed attempt to lose weight that there is nothing better for that than combining the aftermath of your mom’s death with caring for two small children and one extremely elderly dog, plus a long daily commute and a consulting gig on the side.

Yes, I am conceding defeat in my latest weight-loss effort, but that doesn’t mean I am giving up. I’m simply resetting the clock, redoubling my efforts, and setting a new goal: 150 pounds by next June 1st, or a little over half a pound per week. Wish me luck, and look for the return of my front-page weight-loss graph soon, once I’ve accumulated a few days’ worth of data for this latest push.

Aboriginal self-abnegation

In the months preceding my Bar Mitzvah I became determined that, when the day arrived, my skin should be absolutely clear and blemish-free, despite then being in the throes of pubescent acne. To achieve this goal I swore off chocolate and deep-fried food cold-turkey. For something like two or three months I upheld this prohibition (except for one time when I thoughtlessly accepted a few proffered potato chips, then agonized over them for the next several days). The result: it worked! On the day of my Bar Mitzvah my skin positively glowed.

That was the first of a handful of occasions on which I have rigorously denied something to myself pending the attainment of some goal. Another memorable instance was “No sushi until my startup makes some money.” (That one was a collective vow by all the founders of Zanshin. We broke the vow after the first couple of years for the occasion of our first important business meeting with a prospective partner. Man, that sushi tasted good.) The success of these efforts has hinged on my making a public declaration of them.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. My weight-loss program has stalled despite having added some exercise into the mix. I am oscillating around the 173-pound mark, but my daily goal is now almost down to 168. To get back on track, I am now publicly declaring that I will eat no more pasta until I break 170. (Why pasta? Well, I eat a lot of it. And subjectively speaking, the worst backsliding on my weight graph always seems to occur the morning after a pasta meal.)

Let’s give that a few days and see if it produces any results. If it doesn’t, I’ll add more foods to the prohibited list.

Weight, weight, don’t tell me

Losing weight is hard.

I weigh myself first thing each morning. Occasionally I am pleased by what the scale says, and then I exclaim, “Yes!” (whispered, so as not to wake anyone else up) and do a victory fist-pump (feebly, since I haven’t had any coffee yet). But much more often I am not pleased, and then I talk back to the scale, casting aspersions on its ancestry, entreating it to perform anatomical impossibilities, and the like.

As of today I am 117 days into my weight-loss program, which is 29.1% of the way from when I started to the goal of my next birthday. Unfortunately my weight is lagging about ten days behind at 26.7% of the way from start-weight to goal-weight.

Still, considering the holidays just passed — dietarily disastrous as expected — and the fact that I still have not begun any meaningful amount of exercise, I guess it’s not too bad. I have a good strategy for catching up when I’m starting to fall behind: skip dinner. Getting on my bike when the weather turns nice again (actually it’s been unseasonably pleasant so far, but I plan my activities as if it’s a normal Northern California winter) will be an even better strategy.

Pillsbury Dough Bob

At the beginning of 2005 I weighed 180 pounds. I was determined to shed twenty of those pounds in time for my birthday in October. And I did!

The red line in this graph was my daily goal and the green line was my actual weight, which I measured faithfully under identical conditions each day. By the end, not only was I getting compliments on my improved appearance, but my occasional asthma and reflux problems had disappeared and my clothes fit better.

I did it by eating much more sensibly (n.b. not “dieting”) and by committing myself to riding my bike a few times a week. In fact, via this modest common-sense program I got lean and strong enough by September to make a decent showing in the “Great SF Bike Ride” preceding the San Francisco Grand Prix bicycle race.

Of course I celebrated with some birthday cake — not just on my birthday, but on each of the several days that followed, as there was plenty left over. Halloween followed soon thereafter, and I wasn’t about to let my kids eat all that candy themselves, now was I? Naturally I stuffed myself on Thanksgiving, and then it was the Christmas season with cakes, cookies, and candy everywhere.

My discipline was destroyed. By March I was back up to 170. By yesterday I was back up to 180. I look and feel terrible. My pants are too tight. My asthma and reflux are back. Today I had to run to catch a train and all but collapsed in a gasping heap after two blocks, watching the train disappear into the distance.

So today begins a new campaign: to reach 150 by my birthday in 2007. You can follow the progress in the graph at the bottom of the sidebar on the front page of this blog.